The Haunting Within (Rewritten for Contest)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
I am submitting this story in a Horror/Ghost contest. The only issue was that the original was over 600 words too long. This version has been shorted down to 2000 words. To do this I had to cut, cut, and cut some more. Nearly 25% had to be chopped out... eeek! I hope in doing so I didn't destroy the story. I hope you will read this again and let me know what you think of the changes. Who knows, maybe it's even better now.

Submitted: March 19, 2008

A A A | A A A

Submitted: March 19, 2008



Is that you?

Rachel focused on the pale hand as it slipped through the flowing white veil.

Silence. Her ears grew numb.

She felt like she was floating in space, but her feet were firmly on the ground.

"Is that you?" she said again, this time feeling the words tickle her tongue.

The pale hand snatched hers and her eyes sprung open with terror.

She was alone in a vast king-size bed. Her breathing labored. Her chin quivered. Her lacy gown clung to her clammy goose-pimpled flesh.

The room was dark. Soft moonlight glinted through a small window somewhere behind her, its soft glow caressing the lonely objects within the calm chilly space.

It's been five years since the accident, she thought. Five years since her husband and only daughter Sarah had left her.

She could still see the reflection of her own face in her daughter’s soft green eyes. She had never before, or since, bonded with another human like she had with Sarah. And with a mere eleven years together she couldn't help but think about how things ought to have been; how they would have been, had she remained in control.

Sixteen, she thought. Sixteen today. Sweet sixteen. Flowing frills on her billowing pink dress. Soft white flower-peddles drifting about the landscape while strings play a lovely swaying rhythm of joy as the two of them dance. She could see herself. Dancing with her daughter. Their bodies close. Touching. The flowery fragrance of Sarah’s perfume filled her every breath, warming the core of her motherhood.

There was a flash. Immense light washed out the entirety of her vision. A squeal of tires. Crushing metal. Broken glass. The room was again thrust into darkness.

The stench of her sweat curled her nose into a wrinkled ball. She wiped her puffy eyes with the heals of her hands and propped herself up on the edge of the bed.

The coldness of the lifeless room surrounding her sent electrifying chills down her washboard spine.

She grabbed her pillow, planted her face in its soft base of feathers, pulling it close. Squeezing. She cried, “Why did you leave?” Her voice was faint. “Why did you take her from me?”

Rachel. The voice was deep, Godlike, it seemed to encapsulate the room. But she knew it couldn't be God.

She gazed up from the sodden pillow. Her eyes filled with apprehension. She smiled. Sarah’s smile gazed back. But as quickly as the joy flooded in, it evaporated. She rose from the bed and grabbed the picture from the dresser.

She was so beautiful, she thought.

“Why?” she hollered. Her voice sore from shouting and swallowing tears. “Why? You son-of-a-bitch!”

The room remained silent. Lifeless. Gray.

She placed the picture back on the dresser--

Rachel. The voice pierced her from everywhere.

--The picture slipped from her trembling fingers and shattered on the cold floor, inches from her bare feet.

A light enveloped her, so pure that it filled her soul as much as it filled the room around her. It didn’t hurt to look at. She didn’t even blink, nor squint. It was wonderful. Yet oddly frightening.

Is that you?

Her eyes focused on the pale hand as it slipped through the flowing white veil.

Silence. Her ears grew numb.

She felt light, as if floating in space, but her feet were planted on the floor, which no longer felt cold.

"Is that you?" she said again, this time feeling the words tickle her tongue.

The pale hand took hold of hers and she immediately felt a gasp leave her trembling lips as a shiver shook her spine. Her eyes sprung open. Her daughter’s gazing smile caressed her soul.

Returning the picture to the dresser a frightening thought ransacked her timid soul. Oh God. I’m being haunted.

She knew the voice speaking her name wasn’t God, it was her husband. It was Raymond.

The cold, she thought. It’s so cold.

“Why are you doing this?” Her throat even more sore now; she could feel it going horse. “Leave me be, you bastard!”

The room was silent.

A sudden solemnness swept her face. “I know you had a rough life, Raymond.” She grabbed a robe from the chair next to the bed and threw it over her shoulders. “You weren’t alone.”

She reached for the lamp on the night-stand and turned the switch. The room remained dark. “Shit.” She glanced at the clock, just now realizing that it’s digital face was as dark as the room. She gazed about, suddenly feeling claustrophobic. “Did you kill the goddamn power, too?”

She grabbed the comforter from the bed and wrapped it around her. It didn’t help. The cold was deep. Her shivering became uncontrollable. The room suddenly took on an aura of being frost covered. Her breathing was fast and shallow. Pain nipped at her lungs as she fought for air.

A suffocating weight wrapped itself around her chest. “What the hell are you doing to me?” she cried. In a sudden, fearful flight, she sprinted across the room towards the door, but as she reached for the knob, it was no longer there.

The sun was blinding. Hot. The air muggy. Just enough cloud cover hovered overhead to provide a break here and there from the scorching rays. Sarah was dressed in the one-piece pink and white denim short-suit Raymond had bought her on her fifth birthday. She ran to and fro along the glimmering sand of the vast, almost endless beech. Her arms stretched high over her head. A large parachute style kite soared above.

“Rachel?” His voice was bold, yet warm.

She glanced over her shoulder. Raymond laid comfortably on a beech chair, his feet propped slightly so the blood didn’t clot in his paralyzed legs. The sound of the waves as they beat against the shoreline brought on a nauseating sensation of dvu, as did the reek of sea water and Banana Boat sunscreen.

Something was wrong, but she felt compelled to smile nonetheless, and did. “Aren’t you--” She was afraid to complete the thought. Afraid of sounding stupid, “--Hot?” she finally said. There was no way she was about to ask if he was dead. He obviously wasn’t. She suddenly felt she might be going crazy.

“Please,” he said, “pass the sunscreen?”

“Of course.” What is this place? Her mind drifted.

“Dear?” He was rubbing his legs, pain glared in his face. She grabbed the sunscreen from a mound of sand and mindlessly passed it to him.

“Thank you,” he said.

But she didn’t hear. Her eyes focused on Sarah, who looked older now, she looked like she did the day she... What’s going on? she thought. Sarah was drifting down that endless beech; the oversized kite shrinking into the sun-washed horizon.

She jumped to her feet. The book she had been reading fell to the sand. “Sarah!” she hollered. But she didn’t respond; she just kept drifting off into the setting sun. She gazed at Raymond who was smiling, waving at Sarah.

With eyes that screamed, what the hell’s wrong with you, she said, “Aren’t you going to do something!”

He didn’t laugh, but she could see it dying to lash out at any moment; it was the one thing that always set her off. “She’s just playing,” he said. “Besides, what do you expect me to do, fly?”

Her eyes shot back toward the setting sun, toward Sarah, nearly too difficult to see now through the intense yellow glow. “We have to stop her.” A tear rolled down her cheek. “We can’t just...” Her gaze was drawn toward the book lying in the sand. Here eyes grew wide; her heart stopped; her stomach wrenched. Her tears struck the cover and rolled off into the sand. Her face reeled in a painful sob that seemed to heave its way up from her soul.

There was a child, playing, walking in the water. An ocean. The image faded into nothingness--a pale rusty tonality that reminded her of blood. Something stood, raised from the water, feet from where the child playfully wandered, kicking her feet, walking toward the thing which peered out from the void beyond.

It looked like ancient ruins, row upon row of towering Roman columns, extending off as far as the scene allowed eyes to follow. Menacing. Dangerous. Why is that child alone? she thought. Why isn’t anyone trying to stop her. The child in the image was little more than a dark silhouette; but to her, it was Sarah. “Sarah,” she spoke softly.

AFTER THE DEATH OF A CHILD, was the title. The cover was wrinkled slightly, perhaps by her tears as they joined the ripples and waves of a still ocean, held captive in a frame of one’s haunted memory.

She stared back into the sun. Sarah was gone. She returned her teary eyes toward Raymond. He was gazing at a map. It was dark. A reading lamp lit the road atlas in her husband’s hands.

“MOM!” a small voice shouted from behind.

Rachel quickly jerked her head toward the road. A bright light attacked her tired eyes. She spun the wheel. The tires squealed. The smell of burnt rubber filled the car. Sobs ramped up from behind; a sudden cry of terror and sadness. The Mustang, top down and full of everything she ever cared about in the world, swerved out of control. In the corner of her eyes she saw a guardrail. Nothing on the other side. A cliff. A mountain. A tree. A guardrail. A cliff. A mountain. A tree. A--

In a sudden streak, the blinding headlamps of the oncoming truck rushed by. The Mustang skidded to a halt on the opposite side of the road. Dust and smoke filled the air, then quickly became sucked away in the strong mountainous breeze.


She gaped out over the guardrail, just feet in front of her. Nothing, for as far as she could see. Her fingers hurt. She plucked them from the wheel as if they had been glued. Her knuckles popped as they came loose. Looking painfully at her crooked fingers, she realized the car was all to quiet. She caught her breath and looked to her side. Raymond was gone. She looked behind her. Sarah too.

She was alone. She placed her head in her hands and cried.

“Go Mom.” The voice was Sarah’s, though there was something strange about it. It seemed older. Mature. “Don’t keep doing this Mom. Go... Go now!”

Rachel lifted her head to see her daughter’s face and in a flash found herself back in her bedroom.

It was dark. Cold. Her body felt numb. Trapped. She lay at the center of the bed facing a small group of people. Total strangers. Six of them. Women. Holding hands. One stood, while the others knelt. This one, the one standing, seemed to gaze right at her. She spoke. “Go ... leave this place.” It was that voice again. Sarah’s, only older. “Mother. The time has come for you to move on. I can feel your spirit. I can feel you. You can hear me, I know it. Leave this place. Go on. Father and I forgave you a long time ago. We know you didn’t mean it. We know you didn’t mean to hurt us. We love you. That’s why I’ve gathered the six of us. To release you. Set you free.

“Mother. Dad’s waiting. He’s waited fifteen years for this day, the day he would pass through the veil and see you again. But until you go, he’ll be waiting, alone. Abandoned. Don’t break his heart a second time. This is your chance to redeem yourself. I know God will forgive you for what you did. You were not well. You would have never killed yourself if you were.”

© Copyright 2018 Keith Katsikas. All rights reserved.

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